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Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The nun and the pirate: Amaro Pargo and Sister María de Jesús The Servant of God

Amaro Pargo (1678 – 1747), one of the most renowned corsairs of the Golden Age of Piracy, was a great devotee and later benefactor of Sor María de Jesus - the incorrupt nun known as La Siervita - of the Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena de La Laguna.

This Don Amaro, a famous character from La Laguna, for his pranks as a boy; his maritime prowess and great wealth, was one of the greatest admirers of the virtues of Sister María de Jesús, La Siervita. This veneration for the nun was inherited from a relation - reputedly either his sister or niece - who was also cloistered in the same convent, and she was the one who inspired those feelings. 

He never undertook business, expedition or entered into a contract without first consulting with the nun and obtaining her approval. 

The prophetic announcements that the nun offered proved to be very useful to the corsair, as well as to the rest of his family, as in the case of Amaro's brother, to whom she prophesied that he would not return from a trip.

They say that while he was on one of his pirate raids sailing the seas and returning to the islands, a horrible storm put the boat he was commanding in the process of being shipwrecked, and remembering Amaro Pargo, who was bringing some objects from Sor María de Jesús that he considered as relics, he threw them into the sea imploring the remedy that was not long in coming and that abated the storm. 

On another of his trips aboard one of his most famous corsair ships, the "Fortuna", he encountered a Turkish-flagged pirate ship that attacked him, and on boarding he had to beat a retreat, and close to surrendering, he heard a voice that told him: "Cheer up, don't be afraid, God is on your side", defeating the pirate, after which he was able to triumphantly enter the port of Santa Cruz with the seized boat on Holy Saturday of that same year.

In gratitude, Don Amaro endowed the cost of exhibiting the Blessed Sacrament on Monday and Tuesday of Easter each year in the church of the Convent of Sta. Catalina, attributing this victory to the intervention of María de Jesús, who had a revelation of the event.

Another episode recounts that while Don Amaro was in America, one night he was attacked by a man with a dagger, from which he emerged unharmed, the aggressor having to flee. After he arrived from his trip, he went, as he always did, to La Laguna to visit his protector, and telling her about the event, she showed him a blanket full of slashes. Don Amaro kept the blanket in great esteem because he always took it wherever he went.

Finally, it should be noted that upon the death of La Siervita, Amaro Pargo, not content with endowing his assets on an anniversary for the soul of the nun, wanted to give her precious remains a more dignified resting place than the earth. Three years after her death, in 1734, he requested the necessary permits to exhume the corpse and bury it in a box. Being a personal witness to the wonder he observed regarding the preservation of the body, and which motivated him to dedicate not only a box, but a very expensive sarcophagus, which is the same in which the corpse of the nun still remains incorrupt.

There are verses written on the sarcophagus, of which the first letter of each line spell out the word PARGO, in clear allusion to the corsair.

The sarcophagus is a work of craftsmanship made of carved wood, decorated in red, blue and gold leaf, which can be opened using three keys, removing its front part, behind which there is a wood and glass compartment in which the nun lies, that is used every February 15 (the anniversary of her death) to exhibit the incorrupt body to public worship.

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